Way to go, Metro Vancouver

Small fishway on Brunette River has had big impact, what about Alouette dam?

Geoff Clayton

Geoff Clayton

Editor, The News:

Metro Vancouver has showed great resolve doing the right thing on Coquitlam’s Brunette River, while the federal government should hang its head in shame because of its negligence to salmon and the people of B.C.

I’m referring to the newly built Cariboo Dam fishway which has restored fish to the area.

For years, the Brunette River was used as a convenient industrial waste dump

Then, as the public demanded more, individuals and groups moved forward to clean up and rebuild this stream, riffle by riffle.

But one of the key sticking points has always been the largely impassable blockage of seagoing fish at Cariboo Dam.

This dam had impeded the migration of salmon into the formerly rich spawning and rearing streams of the upper Burnaby Lake watershed, much of which has been impacted by urbanization and construction of Hwy. 1.

The development and construction of fish passageway for a low-head dam at the outlet of Burnaby Lake was a no-brainer.

The stage was set, over the last several decades, for a fishway to restore the complete watershed.

Did Fisheries and Oceans Canada step up? Of course not.

That would be too much to expect of this great federal regulatory protector of salmon habitat in our home and native land.  (To be fair, there was a small group within DFO, who without funds, encouraged this restoration work.  They worked with partners such as Sapperton Fish and Game, SPEC and BCIT.)

However, the agency that did the right thing was Metro Vancouver – largely on its own initiative.

Admittedly, this is Metro Vancouver’s dam. But did DFO push, prod and/or provide the proverbial carrot for Metro Vancouver to do the right thing? No.

Metro Vancouver just did the right thing.

Bravo Metro Vancouver.

Salmon and migratory trout are now using this fishway to access the spawning and rearing habitats upstream of the Cariboo Dam.

This was a great accomplishment, not only for building the fishway but for being visionary enough to do so.

However, one must ask, what is the role of Fisheries if not to lead, encourage, prosecute, and in some cases fund, these projects?

Yes, we have seen a multi-million-dollar hatchery built on the Capilano River.

But in general, Fisheries’ role in rebuilding streams and providing such fishways has been vacuous.

It’s not just in B.C. that people and agencies, are moving forwards in redressing old dam issues. The instant success of fish reaching the upper reaches of the Elwha River, in Washington state, thanks to the decommissioning of the Elwha and Glines dams, shows other jurisdictions are taking their mandates seriously.

On the flip side, Fisheries and Oceans Canada clearly is not.

If it was just a matter of limited budgets, we might understand this.

But Fisheries is supposed to be a catalyst for other levels of government, or agencies, such as Metro Vancouver or B.C. Hydro.

For us in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, a fish ladder around the Alouette Dam would be a huge contribution – allowing  salmon to overcome this man-made obstruction and reach their spawning grounds in the upper Alouette watershed.

Clearly, Fisheries and Oceans doesn’t care.

There hasn’t been one word of official support from Fisheries for this structure.

BC Hydro sits in the weeds laughing because it doesn’t have to spend a cent on a structure that has been an impediment to fish passage for a century.

We are not asking for the dam’s removal, just a low-cost fishway already designed and priced at $3M.


Geoff Clayton

Alouette River Management Society,

Maple Ridge

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